THE SENTENCING PROJECT, CRIMINAL JUSTICE EXPERTS AND FORMERLY INCARCERATED PEOPLE DISCUSS NEW REPORT ON FELONY DISENFRANCHISEMENT
Washington, DC – Earlier today, criminal justice experts and formerly incarcerated people gathered to discuss The Sentencing Project’s new report on felony disenfranchisement.
The analysis, Locked Out 2020, reveals that 5.2 million people — disproportionately people of color — will be barred from voting in the 2020 election due to a felony conviction. An alarming one in 16 Black Americans of voting age are disenfranchised as a result of felonies. It’s a devastating reality that so many people are deprived of their fundamental right to vote.
Nicole D. Porter, Director of Advocacy for The Sentencing Project, said, “Felony disenfranchisement laws disproportionately single out Black Americans and the Latinx community for political marginalization. Through these laws, the very same racial disparities that are so endemic to the American criminal justice system are directly translated into the wide-spread disenfranchisement of entire communities of color. No democracy can truly function when one group of people is so disproportionately subjected to the coercive power of the police, prosecution, the courts and the prisons. Every single American deserves the right to vote.”
Professor Christopher Uggen at the University of Minnesota, lead researcher and author of The Sentencing Project’s “Locked Out 2020” Report, said, “As a researcher I’ve tracked the flurry of legal changes to restore the vote in recent years, so I was disappointed to find that 5.2 million citizens remain disenfranchised — three quarters of whom live and work alongside us in our communities. Disenfranchisement amplifies the effects of racial disparities in law enforcement and the courts, diluting the political voices of communities of color. Re-enfranchising these citizens would reduce such disparities, extend democracy, respond to public sentiment, accord with international standards, enhance public safety, and put to rest the prospect and practice of bringing ‘unlawful voting’ charges against citizens in a democracy. We cannot take these extreme voting restrictions for granted or accept them as part of the ‘furniture in the room.’”
Sakira Cook, Justice Reform Director at The Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights, said, “We are long overdue to tear down barriers to the ballot box, especially for people with felony convictions. In recent months, the importance of voting — and selecting our elected leaders — has become clearer more than ever with millions across the nation coming together to protest police brutality and systemic racism. If we want to dismantle systemic racism and reform the structures that perpetuate it, we must collectively continue to exercise our right to vote and demand change. And because voting is the language of our democracy, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people must be able to join us in making their voices electorally heard.”
Shakur Abdullah, who survived 41 years in prison and founded Nebraska’s JustUs 15 Vote, said “Given my own personal history, and this country’s history of systemic racism and white supremacy, I felt the full weight of my ancestors behind me when I voted for the first time. We ought to remember that this country was founded on the principle of no taxation without representation. I was immediately required to pay taxes upon my release from incarceration, but my vote wasn’t accepted. This should never be the case.”
Juan Cartagena, President & General Counsel at LatinoJustice; Constitutional and Civil Rights Attorney, said “It is a sad statement about the state of our democracy that so many people, especially people of color, continue to be denied the right to vote due to felony disenfranchisement laws. The United States holds itself up as a model of democracy and a beacon of freedom to the world. This is a nation that has imposed democracy on other nations, often times by force, and yet this country continues to disenfranchise 5.2 million people. This is why an overwhelming majority of Latinx individuals support fully restoring voting rights to all people who have lost them due to felony disenfranchisement. It is time to right these historical wrongs.”